Cinesamples Virtual Instruments – A Buyer’s Guide

Cinesamples Buyers GuideHere at Time+Space, we’re proud to offer some of the most exciting and innovative orchestral libraries on the market; whether you’re looking for delicate strings, punchy brass or a full size 100-piece symphony orchestra, it’s all there. One of our manufacturers, Cinesamples, play a key role in providing these libraries; their collection covers all areas of the orchestral music spectrum, whilst also venturing into world music and sound design.

This year marks their 10 year anniversary and it’s safe to say they’ve perfected the art of capturing a truly cinematic sound. In this blog post, I’m going to be showing you what’s on offer and the differences between the various series in the Cinesamples product line…

CINESYMPHONY

The CineSymphony range is CineSamples’ complete orchestral series of libraries, recorded at the MGM Scoring Stage at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles by master engineer Dennis Sands. Here are some of the great libraries you can find within the range.., Cine

CineStrings

The CineStrings range compiles of 3 libraries focused on different areas of orchestral string playing which are all available to purchase separately or as a specially-priced bundle. The first of the 3 is CineStrings CORE, a 50 GB library of meticulously recorded strings presented in a user-friendly interface that sits inside Native Instruments’ Free Kontakt Player (5.3.1 or higher).

The library consists of 4 main patches per instrument section: Basic Articulation, True Legato, Split Patches & Multis. The basic artiuclations provide you with everything from staccato & sustains to trills & tremolos whilst the more elusive True Legato patch analyses each note when you play an interval and creates a sublime, seamless transition between them for an authentic legato sound. The split patches are a useful tool for getting down ideas quickly and saving memory space and finally the Multis offer an easy way of producing a bigger sound using octaves and unison playing across all instruments.

The overall sound quality of the library can’t be faulted, it goes above and beyond the standards of string sampling with it’s ability to sustain a realistic tone over all dynamics, velocities and articulations. Use the intuitive interface to quickly select a preset then dive into the controls, which are split into 3 primary tabs:

  • Mapping –  Program your key-switches, MIDI CC articulation mapping & any other performance parameters you may need
  • Mixer – Access and control the volume of all 4 mic positions: Spot, Close, Room & Surround as well as the full mix
  • Settings – Tailor your sound even more with these advanced controls including a Hairpin Creator and various FX

Moving onto the next instalment in the Cinestrings series: Cinestrings SOLO. Recorded & sampled using the same advanced techniques as used for the CORE library, Cinestrings SOLO offers deeply sampled solo string patches for Violin (1 & 2), Viola, Cello & Double Bass. The True Legato patch really comes into play here, with the individual instruments you can hear the realistic detail when playing between intervals and this makes it a pleasure to play. Something else to note are the Ensemble patches which split the instruments accross the keyboard, these are great if you’re ever in a live performance situation or generally want to get an idea of how your solo lines will sound together.

Finally we have CineStrings RUNS, a composer-friendly collection of tempo-locked runs, scales and rips for strings; the library serves a very specific purpose and does it perfectly.

In the mapping window, there’s a handy notation view which displays the run you’ve selected, so you can easily see exactly what is being played. The selection of scales consists of Major, Natural, Minor, Harmonic Minor, Octatonic, Whole Tone & Chromatic so you’re covered in every corner. You can also find a tempo section which includes a ‘Sync to Downbeat’ button: a clever litte feature that synchronises the end of every run to a downbeat regardless of where you start.

 

CineBrass

There are 4 libraries available within the CineBrass range with the option of buying 3 of them as a bundle (due to the 4th library being released a lot later than the others). CineBrass CORE is where you’ll find the essentials of the orchestral brass section presented in stunningly realistic software form. Being a brass player myself, I can tell you that a lot of the virtual brass libraries out there fall short of the line, simply because the tone of each instrument can vary so much that sampling it takes a lot of skill. Thankfully, CineBrass exceeds expectations, the attention to detail in every articulation patch shows off Cinesamples’ expertise as a virtual instrument manufacturer and I’d feel confident using this in my own projects.

The interface is very similarly layed out to that of the CineStrings range but of course, tailored to the needs of brass writing instead. Cinesamples’ famous True Legato patches are again a primary feature in this library with a Polyphonic Legato mode, allowing you to play chordal transitions that effortlessly blend together, this will prove to be very useful when writing brass chorals similar to the one at the end of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6!

On top of the CORE library, you can also purchase CineBrass PRO,a unique collection of entirely new sample content which serves as the perfect expansion to the CORE library or as an incredible library on it’s own. A trumpet, horn, trombone & tuba were all recorded playing advanced techniques and articulations to form a library that is twice the size (you heard me right) of the original; find patches such as ‘Monster Low Brass Scoops’ ‘Horns Ensemble Rips’ and a selection of muted/stopped patches. This library has you covered in every area of orchestral brass playing and is essential for serious composers who like to use every technique in the book!

The 3rd product in the bundle is Descant Horn. Any keen classical musician will know the importance of the French Horn in orchestral writing; either as a storming force of 4 playing together or as a high & exposed solo line, the horn’s huge range in dynamics and notes make it a very popular instrument to composers. The Descant Horn is a unique type of French Horn where the harmonic series is offset by an octave, giving it a softer and less strained timbre in higher registers which makes it perfect for soaring solos. Cinesamples chose to sample the instrument and offer it as a separate library and though it serves a very specific purpose, there isn’t another library out there that could offer this much content & realism for this particular instrument.

The final product in the CineBrass range which doesn’t come as part of the bundle is the Twelve Horn Ensemble, an improved version of the classic Twelve Horn patches from the CineBrass PRO library. The main feature in this updated ensemble is Cinesample’s famous Adaptive Legato Engine; this intelligent tool analyses the speed that you’re playing at then applies it to the interval speed, allowing very natural sounding melody and accompaniment lines.

CineWinds

Another essential addition to the CineSymphony range are the CineWinds, which have been given the same detailed sampling treatment as the rest of the libraries. The CineWinds CORE library, as expected features essential articulations for Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Piccolo as well as some group articulations (unison and octaves). Over the past couple of years though, CineWinds CORE has received 2 major updates, improving it’s quality as a library and ensuring it’s always with the times. The most recent update (1.3) introduced Cinesamples’ genius Adaptive Legato Engine and a fresh new look to the Mapping tab amongst other features.

The second library in the CineWinds range is CineWinds PRO, an extension to the CORE library which not only fills out the rest of the woodwind section but also offers a large selection of ethnic period wind instruments perfect for film scoring. Some of these include:

  • Baroque Flute
  • Border Pipes
  • Duduk
  • Irish Flute
  • Penny Whistle
  • Soprano Shawm
  • Uilleann Pipes
  • Renaissance Flute

You won’t know how much you need these patches until you play them; they’re an instant inspiration and you’ll feel inclined to find a way to use them in your scores! Both these fantastic libraries are available for separate purchase or pair together comfortably as a bundle.

CinePerc

The final library in the CineSymphony range (and final instrument group in the orchestra!) is CinePerc; though previously sold as 4 separate libraries: CORE, PRO, AUX & EPIC, in a 2016 update Cinesamples chose to combine them to form an all-in-one Complete library, offering cheaper upgrade paths for existing owners of the individual libraries.

The instruments in CinePerc have been suitably divided into 7 different categories: Orchestral, Melodic, Woods, Metals, Ethnic, Big Perc & Toys & More, making it easy for the user to locate specific patches (you can view the staggering instrument list by clicking on the image on the right). Every single patch has been carefully mapped out to the keyboard and many of the instruments include various ways of playing such as rolls, flams, muted hits, rubbed, scraped, bowed and many more. The “Orchestral Percussion Ensemble” patch is one you could find yourself using regularly, mapping out about 20 different instruments over the whole keyboard so you can instantly hear combinations of hits and get ideas down quickly.

Click here to download the CinePerc manual and take a look at the keyboard layouts

Coming in at a hefty download size of around 100 GB, purchasing the CinePerc library is a big decision but I can assure you if it’s orchestral, cinematic, ethnic or quirky percussion you’re looking for, then look no further as CinePerc quite literally has it all!

OTHER BUYING OPTIONS?

There’s also a great variety other bundles that combine different libraries from the CineSymphony range together, all for a cheaper price! These include:


ARTIST SERIES

The CineSamples Artist Series is a collaboration with some of the great talents with in the music scoring world.

Tina Guo Cello

As part of their Artist Series, Cinesamples teamed up with world-renowned Chinese cellist Tina Guo to build an extensive library of equisitely captured acoustic/electric cello & erhu performances. The Acoustic Legato patch gained a lot of popularity from users thanks to Tina’s signature sustained playing and therefore ended up becoming it’s own separate & attractively priced product: Tina Guo Legato.

As with the majority of Cinesamples’ products, Tina Guo is a Kontakt library that will work within the free or full version of Kontakt 5.3.1 or higher and has it’s own custom built user-interface. The ‘Main’ page includes essential controls for articulation, impulse responses and a useful arpeggiator. On top of this you can find some more unique features such as an inspirational Phrase Builder (shown right), a Drone Designer which allows you to use long deep cello drones as an eerie undertone and a small but effect granular synth FX.

Switch to the FX page and find EQ control, a compressor, delay, reverb and various pedal effects which contribute to the depth of this library. The patch list includes Rhythmic Loops, Arps, FX, Drones and of course, the stunning distinct acoustic legato sound that Tina delivers so well. I’ve found there to be a lot of flexibility with this library; many people would see the word ‘cello’ and think “oh it’s just another string library” but in fact, this is an expansive set of tools that you could find yourself using in anything from classical to modern experimental music and everything in between.


CINESERIES

CineSamples’ Composer-friendly libraries.

Piano in Blue

Ever thought you’d be able to play a virtual piano sampled from the exact same 1945 Steinway D used to record Glenn Gould’s “Goldberg Variations” and Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” for under £90? Well, you can. This special opportunity arose to Cinesamples’ attention whilst they sat in on what was supposed to be the last ever recording session to take place in Clinton Recording Studios in Manhattan before it sadly shut down. Though when they spotted this unique Steinway, along with two Neumann M49s sat in the corner of the room, they managed to arrange for the closing date to be extended, and within 24 hours they had sampled the instrument at 8 velocity levels using 3 mic positions and were ready to turn it into a virtual instrument. I feel like this background story makes Piano in Blue that little bit more special.

The neat little interface that comes with Piano in Blue is simple but you’ll find you don’t need to tweak many dials as the piano’s unique tone is what gives it so much character. You’re able to adjust the microphone mix, velocity curve, pedal noise, apply reverb and in the V2 update, a ‘sample start’ knob was added to give more of an attack to each note if you were experiencing latency or prefer a modern, poppy sound.

Thanks to the special way the instrument plays and the way it was captured, the character of this piano sits in it’s own category and has an instantly recognisable tone. Instead of recording the velocities by touch  Cinesamples decided to do it by ear, making sure every note was captured sounding it’s best and this gives Piano in Blue an instant natural feel; chords sound warm and thick whilst solo lines have a balanced flow to them. Piano in Blue offers huge amounts of character at a very small price, don’t think twice before buying it!

VOXOS

Cinesamples’ VOXOS: Epic Virtual Choirs is a 35 GB (uncompressed) vocal library featuring a full SATB choir, boys choir & soloists, in an intuitive interface powered by Native Instrument’s Kontakt 5 Player. Recorded in 24bit 5.1 surround and paired with the lush natural acoustics of the Bastyr Chapel in Seattle gives this library a depth of realism that’s hard to find in most choral libraries. The focus of VOXOS is to provide a fully cinematic choral sound with a haunting yet stunning tone suitable for anything from classical and medieval to dark horror soundtracks or action film scores. VOXOS 2, an update to the library released in late 2014 introduced a fresh set of newly recorded samples plus script improvements.

Diving into the interface, VOXOS offers 4 tabs: Patch, Builder, Mixing & Settings. Here’s a little summary of the purpose of each one:

  • Patch – Load in one of the ready patches and simply select the sections of the choir you’d like to use. Patches include Phrase Builder, Legato, Chords, Solo Soprano & Women Bum Bums(?!) amongst others.
  • Builder (see right) – Here you can quickly & easily start forming your own phrases using the selection of 30 syllables made available, with up to 12 different phrases and 20 syllables per phrase, leaving you plenty of space to build a full set of custom sentences to use in a project. The transition between each syllable is clean and I like the fact that you can play syllables as staccato, legato, whispers or shouts and the builder will adjust to how you’re playing.
  • Mixer – A simple mic mixer; set levels for Close, Stage, Far & Surround mic positions as well as a Full Mix control. Basic 3 dial EQ also features.
  • Settings – Set Vowel Morph and Dynamic Morph CC# and access some advanced Voice Engine controls.

As featured in many of the Cinesamples libraries, VOXOS includes the genius True Legato engine which sounds great accross all sections of the choir, especially in the solo patches. Another interesting patch to look out for is the Chords patch, which enables whole major & minor chords to be triggered from a single note in either root position or 1st and 2nd inversion. Or you could create some tension and excitement with the Choir FX patch which includes grunts, screams, atonal clusters and some epic ‘trailer risers’ which will come in handy when working on film/tv scores. There’s a huge amount of quality content in VOXOS and you’ll undoubtably find ways to use it, take a listen to this epic audio demo below!

CineHarp

“This is a very practical library and these samples are already finding their ways into my recordings.” says Garry Schyman (Dante’s Inferno, Bio Shock series), one of the many high profile composers who have given Cinesamples’ CineHarp a big thumbs up. This small but powerful sample library for the full version of Kontakt 3.5+ contains tempo syncing harp glissandi covering major, harmonic minor, whole tone, diminished scale & half diminished tunings, amongst other features.

The glissandi can be played in 4 different styles, using the mod wheel to alter the length:

  • Straight Up (Short, Medium, Long)
  • Straight Down (Long)
  • Swirled Up (Short, Medium, Long)
  • Ad Lib (Gentle up/down, Swirly, w/ nail)

In the most recent update to the library, Cinesamples arranged all the glissandi into one patch, assinging each one to a keyswitch to make combining runs effortless. On top of these in depth glissandis you can also find a Pluck patch, a separately recorded 3 layer set of samples that you can use to make your own custom glissandi using the in-built arpeggiator. Other features include a 3 band EQ, custom reverb positioning and a notation view for those who need to see their scales as well as hear them! All in all CineHarp is an easy to use, reliable source for elaborate harp glissandi and composers of all standards will find it useful, especially at such a small price.

Please note: CineHarp contains Kontakt Files for the full version of Kontakt 3.5 or higher, they will not work in the Free Kontakt Player!

WORLD SERIES

Impeccably sampled and uniquely chosen world instruments

African Marimba & Udu

Cinesamples’ World Series offers a nice authentic alternative to their mammoth orchestral libraries, for example, this 200 MB library for Kontakt (full version, 5.5 or higher) offers a convenient selection of African Marimba & Udu hits. Both instruments were recording in the same place & using the same methods as the team used to record big time libraries such as the CineSymphony Series, so the quality of African Marimba & Udu doesn’t fall short!

Starting with the Marimba, you can choose to play with sticks OR soft mallets, depending on what tone you’re looking for, and then further adjust the sound with the sample start & soft attack sliders. The middle of the interface features a simple 3 band EQ along with a saturation fader and on the right you can find a Roll Generator of which the volume can be controlled using the mod wheel.

The Udu is an authentic African clay pot used as a rhythmic instrument that has a deep, hollow sound and I’m going to take a guess and say this is the first time it’s been sampled to this extent! The interface is similar to the Marimba minus the roll generator; increse the sample start to give the Udu a tighter and harder sound. TIP: Apply some big reverbs from your DAW or another 3rd party plugin and create some really interesting deep drone textures!

 

Viola Da Gamba

The other product in the World Series we’re going to look at & the final one in this post is the Viola Da Gamba; this special Spanish instrument dates back to the mid 15th Century and was very popular amongst Baroque composers due to it’s raw, niche sound. Cinesamples managed to get hold of the instrument and did their magic on it to add it to their ever increasing collection.

The GUI is nicely layed out with articulation selection and mapping (full controls hidden beneath the ‘EDIT’ button) on the left, reverb and mix selection in the centre and additional note controls on the right. In terms of the Articulations Patch you can choose between the following: Sustains, True Legato (sound familiar?!), Staccato, Chug, Sforzando & Pizzicato.

Other features & patches include:

  • Drones Patch – Contains trills, tremolos, drones and other non standard methods of playing, perfect for creating tension & suspense in your projects
  • Split Keyboard – Combines the Articulations Patch in the top half of the keyboard with the Drones Patch in the lower range, allowing you play them simultaneously and create eerie drones with solo lines floating over the top.
  • Accent Overlay – Found within the mapping page, this enables you to play an additional articulation sample (Staccato, Chug, or Sforzando ) when a note is played above a certain velocity of your choice.
  • Articulation Mappings – Assign articulations to be triggered by a condition of your choice, be it using the pedal, keyswitches or mod wheel.

If you’re looking to expand your collection of virtual instruments with something a bit different, I’d highly recommend Viola Da Gamba, its unique tone is instant inspiration!


Thanks for taking the time to read through this buyers’ guide, feel free to leave any questions in the comments box below. To view the full Cinesamples range, click here.

Posted by Jamie Farrington

After studying music for 12 years as a tuba and piano player, I was eventually introduced to the studio a few years ago and it opened my eyes to a whole new side of music. Since then I've been producing and recording all sorts of music, with my main interest being in ambient and experimental electronic music. Working at Time+Space has enabled me to work with some great musicians, composers, producers and above all, some amazing software!

Website: http://www.timespace.com/

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